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Literature: The Name of the Wind

Heroic Fantasy novel by Patrick Rothfuss, chronicling the early adventures of Kvothe (pronounced similar to Quothe, but with a 'v'), a legendary hero, as he begins his career by struggling through The University to learn magic and find the answers behind the existence of The Chandrian, a murderous group of seven immortals who killed Kvothe's family for learning too much about them.

The first of three novels in The Kingkiller Chronicle. Orson Scott Card compares it favorably to the Harry Potter series; obvious similarities include their Wizarding School settings and young protagonists. The Name of the Wind starts out dark and remains that way. While there is humor, most of it comes in the form of Kvothe's Genre Savvy or occasional Deadpan Snarker tendencies rather than the absurdities of the magical world.

The Wise Man's Fear (Book two of the trilogy) was released on March 1, 2011.

Put tropes that apply to the series as a whole in The Kingkiller Chronicle


The Name of the Wind has examples of:

  • Above the Influence: Kvothe finds it best if he doesn't follow up on Denna's request to join her for a swim in the lake after she's been subject to denner resin.
    "There are names for men who take advantage of women when they are vulnerable, but I shall never rightfully be called any of them."
  • A Taste of the Lash: An important part of Kvothe's legend building is when he is flogged: a drug he takes beforehand, to dull the pain, has the side effect of constricting the blood vessels so he doesn't bleed, earning him the nickname "Kvothe the Bloodless."
  • Badass Boast:
    • Kvothe's introduction when he begins to recount his life to the Chronicler.
    • Bast to Chronicler, later in the first book.
  • Barefoot Poverty: Kvothe during his life in Tarbean, and later at the Arcanum after that Fishery rescue. (It's hard to wear shoes after acid has caused them to evaporate.)
  • Becoming the Mask: Bast is afraid that this is happening to Kvothe, in a way that humans can't really even grasp. He even describes it in terms of masks to Chronicler.
  • Bedlam House: Treatment in the Rookery is actually quite humane, but the asylum in Tarbean plays this straight.
  • Berserk Button:
    • God help you if you do anything that can be interpreted as possibly harmful to the books in the Archive around the normally-unflappable Lorren.
    • Kvothe, toward insults to his Edema Ruh heritage. (Pretending to be Edema Ruh is more of a murder button.)
    • Bast, toward disrespect to Kvothe.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Summed up near the end by Kvothe himself: "Prince Gallant kills the dragon but loses the girl and the treasure." Then again, this is only the beginning of the trilogy.
  • Black Eyes of Evil: Cinder.
  • Bookends: The silence of three parts is described at the start and the end of the book.
  • Broken Ace: Kvothe is brilliant and excels at everything he tries, but tears himself apart so badly in the process that by the time Chronicler finds him, he's a shadow of his former self.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Chronicler originally tries to bully/blackmail Kvothe to get his story. Around the point where Kvothe gets frustrated and a bottle eight inches from his hand explodes, it occurs to Chronicler that maybe this was a bad idea.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Not with real animals, but with fantastic ones: zombies and trolls are shamblemen and trow, for example.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: Even if that home is mobile, apparently.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Played perfectly straight. Kvothe is afraid of throwing himself at Denna because of the number of boy friends she's had. He thus does not confess his true feelings to her. He is unable to even when she is high on denner resin (a drug similar to opium) and thus unlikely to note or remember anything he says.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Exposition and important future plot points get mentioned in stories the characters tell.
    • Kilvin draws off the heat of a disastrous fire with sympathy then quickly (albeit painfully) stores it in a "heat eater", AKA heat-sink. Kvothe later uses a crude heat sink to draw off the heat of a fire while fighting a dragon and helping to save a town.
    • Lodenstones, or lode-stones (another name for magnets) are mentioned early on in a discussion of waystones. One later becomes key to Kvothe's defeat of a dragon.
  • Chekhov's Skill: After his parents die, Kvothe spends the summer in the forest playing his lute, and keeps playing as the strings break one by one. That skill comes in handy when, during an important performance several years later, Ambrose tries to sabotage him by breaking one of his lute strings mid-song.
  • Circus Brat: Kvothe grew up in a traveling theater troupe, which is pretty close.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Lord Haliax rebukes Cinder for not killing cleanly.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Fela and Kvothe playfully have an exchange like this after he saves her from horrible fiery death.
  • Contemptible Cover: Tell me, if you saw this cover without context, would you think it was a serious fantasy book or a romance novel? Luckily, the hardcover came with two covers, the other of which (pictured above) was much more respectable.
  • Cool Old Guy: Abenthy (mentioned to be pushing sixty) speaks the titular name of the wind on his very first appearance, and he's the one who first teaches Kvothe about sympathy.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Tehlu.
  • Dead Man Writing: Subverted: Kvothe writes one. It's found sooner than he expected by Bast, who then gets to be angry when Kvothe comes back alive.
    Bast: "It wasn't even a good note. 'If you are reading this I am probably dead.' What sort of a note is that?"
  • Deadpan Snarker: Plenty, but Denna probably has the best line in the whole book. When discussing with Kvothe how they could possibly kill a crazed dragon that's putting an entire town in danger, when they're both alone and unarmed, she suggests tricking it into jumping off a cliff, and then pushing heavy rocks down on top of it if it survives.
    Kvothe: [looking disappointed] That's not very heroic. I was expecting something with a little more flair.
    Denna: Well, I left my armor and warhorse at home!
  • Doomed Hometown: Well, traveling troupe.
  • Doublethink: One needs to be able to do this in order to use sympathy.
  • Dramatic Pause: used after the introduction of the dracchus, in which Kvothe dares both Bast and Chronicler to exclaim, "But Kvothe, you just said that there are no dragons!" They don't fall for it.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: Kvothe and Devi, to each other. Kvothe, the badass university legend, is a fifteen-year-old kid, and Devi, the ruthless loan shark, is a cute blonde girl.
  • Eye Scream: As told by Skarpi, after Lanre's betrayal and the resulting devastation, Selitos stabs out his own eye in grief.
  • Face Palm: The Chancellor does this right after Kvothe gets admitted to the Arcanum.
  • Face-Heel Turn: Lanre.
  • Fatal Flaw: Impatience seems to be Kvothe's fatal flaw. A hell of a lot of the trouble he gets himself into could have been avoided oh so easily if he's only bided his time. Most of the rest of the trouble he lands himself in can be put down to his pride and refusal to back down in his feud with Ambrose.
  • Fearless Fool: Referenced. Kvothe says that only priests and fools are fearless.
  • Fiery Redhead: Our hero.
  • Fight Off the Kryptonite: After Chronicler implies that he can defend himself from Bast, Bast grabs him by his cold iron charm necklace and holds it without flinching.
  • Foregone Conclusion: From the framing story, we know that Kvothe comes out of everything infamous worldwide, deeply emotionally scarred, and believed dead.
  • Foreshadowing: Lots of it, as it's the first of a trilogy, but a minor (and tragic) example: the early discussion about knacks (unexplainable passive magical talents, essentially), and how those who had them used to be burned in the old days. It is then revealed that Trip, one of Kvothe's fellow troupe members, has the knack of always rolling sevens. Seems like just a bit of world building, until all seven Chandrian (it is hinted they usually only appear in small groups) attack the troupe, killing everyone. Trip's tent had been dragged into the campfire. Yep, lucky.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • Kvothe, of course, is ridiculously Genre Savvy, thanks to a childhood spent with master performers and storytellers.
    • After Kvothe rescues her from the fire in the the Artificery, Fela is upset because she sees herself as a Damsel in Distress.
  • Glamour Failure: How Chronicler sees through Bast's human guise.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Kvothe has one that essentially lasts three years, for understandable reasons.
    • He gets another (short-lived) one after Ambrose smashes his lute, impelling Kvothe to call the name of the wind. In fact, it takes Elodin's help to restore Kvothe to sanity.
  • I Have Many Names: Kvothe lists a few of them off near the start of the story.
  • I Know Your True Name: As referenced in the title.
  • Informed Attractiveness: Kvothe tries to describe Denna lyrically on a number of occasions, insisting that she's beautiful. Bast suggests that Kvothe's descriptions are biased by his love for her.
  • Living Lie Detector: Denna, though possibly only for Kvothe.
  • Made of Iron: The dracchus, both literally (its scales and bones have a high iron content) and trope-wise: Kvothe makes an educated guess as to what would constitute a lethal dose of a certain poison for a creature that large... then feeds it four times as much, just to be on the safe side. It not only survives, but goes on a rampage as well.
  • Malicious Slander
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Denna shows signs of this. Not that she's there to show Kvothe how to live, but she is freespirited, beautiful and no one can find the words to describe her.
  • Mentor Archetype: Ben. Though in defiance of the usual mentor fate, he actually leaves Kvothe's life by getting married and living happily ever after.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Fela uses one (and not very effectively) when Kvothe calls upon her in her dorm room late one night.
  • My Girl Is a Slut: While it's suggested that Denna usually abandons relationships whenever the men try to coerce her into having sex with them, she does kiss and flirt with one after another practically as a way of making a living, even while simultaneously romancing Kvothe. Kvothe, who has not even done that much with her, consoles himself with the knowledge that none of those men have the emotional connection with her that he does.
  • Necro Mantic: How Lanre the war hero became Haliax, the leader of The Chandrian.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The Draccus might never have burned down half of Trebon if Kvothe hadn't fed it the denner resin and caused it to go insane. However, the Draccus was already manically looking for more denner resin anyway.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Common Draccus, a flightless, herbivorous lizard which collects rocks in its gizzard to help it digest. It's essentially an elephant-sized cow that breathes fire. The climax reveals that they're not immune to overdosing on an opium-like drug and going on a rampage. Chasing the dragon indeed.
  • Perpetual Poverty: A continuing theme is that Kvothe is nearly broke and just barely manages to get his tuition paid and his survival needs met.
  • Promotion Not Punishment: Twice Kvothe breaks the University rules (fighting Ambrose) sufficiently to cause him to be flogged, but in the course of this he demonstrated the skills necessary to graduate to the next level. In a variation on the trope, this means he gets both the punishment and the promotion.
  • Secret Test of Character: Used to hilarious effect by Elodin, who tells Kvothe that, if Kvothe wants to become his student and study the secret of Naming (particularly the Name of the Wind), Kvothe will have to jump off this roof. Kvothe assumes that Elodin will catch him with magic. He doesn't. And then he claims Kvothe failed the test by proving himself too reckless to study the subject.
    Elodin: "Congratulations. That was the stupidest thing I've ever seen. Ever."
  • Shadow Walker: Haliax uses the shadows that cling to him as part of his Chandrian power to transport the others away from Kvothe's destroyed caravan when something notices them just in time to stop Kvothe from being killed too.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A character at the Arcanum using "thaums" as a unit of measurement (for heat in this story) might be a reference to Discworld.
    • At one point, a girl begging for a story about "the dry lands over the Stormwal, with sand snakes and dry men who drink blood" sounds like a reference to Dune.
    • On more than one occasion, the word "Edro!" is used as an attempt to open something - the Elven word for "Open" in Tolkien's Middle-Earth (shouted by Gandalf in frustration at the Doors of Moria).
    • Kvothe leaves Trebon via the Evesdown docks.
  • Shrouded in Myth:
    • No one seems able to agree on who or what the Chandrian are, and even the ways to identify them vary from story to story.
    • Also, Kvothe himself. In the Framing Device, the Chronicler has traveled for days to find him, and Kvothe has a Badass Boast about his own history. During his life story, we find out that a lot of the myths surrounding him were started by accident, while he was a student.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Despite impressing every music-loving female in Imre with his singing and playing, as well as personally saving the life of a buxom girl and being an all-around charmer besides, Kvothe is hopelessly infatuated with Denna.
  • Snipe Hunt: While Kvothe is petitioning to be Elodin's apprentice, Elodin tries to get rid of him by sending him after some pinecones.
  • So Proud of You
  • Speak of the Devil: Abenthy asks Kvothe's parents not to say the names of the Chandrian aloud for this reason. They think he's just being superstitious.
  • Starving Student: Kvothe's struggle to come up with his tuition money drives a large part of the plot.
  • The Stoic: Lorren. According to Simmon, Elxa Dal has a standing offer of 10 gold marks (100 silver talents) for anyone who can make Lorren laugh. So far, Kvothe has managed to make him barely smile ... once.
  • Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: Sympathy and Alchemy, both of which do things that are truly impossible despite still doing business with physics and chemistry respectively. They're so well analyzed that calling them magic at the University is like saying the sun is pulled by a chariot.
  • Tempting Fate: Kvothe's parents continue practicing their song about the Chandrian, even after Abenthy warned them.
  • Title Drop: Several times, in both books.
  • Too Clever by Half: Kvothe talks his way into his world's premier university at the age of fifteen, after having spent three years as a beggar, and promptly antagonizes both one of the masters and the wealthiest and most politically connected student in the university. Between that and his perpetual poverty, he spends most of his time doing absurd things (learning an entire language in a day and a half, getting certified as a musician on a lute with a broken string) just to keep his head above water.
  • Tortured Monster: Haliax/Lanre. After his lover died, it is implied that he tried bringing her back using dark methods. However, he fails and ends up unable to die, sleep, forget or go insane. Because of this, he's trying to end the world.
  • To the Pain: See Badass Boast above.
  • Trickster Mentor: Elodin... maybe.
  • Upper-Class Twit:
    • Tehlu anyway, Ambrose.
    • Sovoy as well, but harmlessly and played for laughs.
  • Urban Segregation: Tarbean, divided into Hillside (rich) and Waterside (poor)
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Done with Kvothe's money problems and especially with Denna.
  • Words Can Break My Bones: The right names can.
  • Wretched Hive: Tarbean.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: When Kvothe takes his University entrance exam, the mathematics master asks for the length of the third side of a triangle with a sixty-degree angle between sides of 3 feet and 7 feet. Kvothe's answer, "Six feet six inches, dead even", is accepted as correct... except that the answer is actually the square root of 37, which is slightly less than six foot one inch. Even given that he's doing it in his head, he really should have known the answer was closer to 6 feet than 6.5 feet. Since the square root of 37 is irrational, there's no possible way for "six feet six inches" to be exactly correct, unless they use some strange sort of inch that's an irrational multiple of a foot.
    • This was corrected in later editions.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Kvothe's stage training failing him - see Secret Test of Character above.

The Memory WarsThe EpicNibelungenlied
The Kingkiller ChronicleFantasy LiteratureThe Wise Man's Fear
My Work Is Not Yet DoneLiterature of the 2000sThe Naming

alternative title(s): The Name Of The Wind
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